Brian Cashman praises Derek Jeter

Updated: May 11, 2011, 1:51 PM ET
By Mike Mazzeo | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman still considers Derek Jeter "an above-average shortstop," and doesn't believe his offensive production -- or lack thereof -- "is going to make or break" the team.

Cashman made the comment on Tuesday afternoon after being asked what Jeter's value is to the Yankees on ESPN 1050's "Ruocco and Lundberg."

Jeter had been written off by many after batting .219 and getting just one extra-base hit in his first 16 games. However, he's seemed to have righted the ship ever since.

The 36-year-old veteran has hit .339 in his last 14 games, and finally connected for his first home run in 259 at-bats in Sunday's 12-5 victory over the Texas Rangers. He finished Sunday's game by going 4-for-6 at the plate with two homers and three RBIs.

"I think he's an above-average shortstop in major league baseball," Cashman said. "He's not the same player he used to be, and how many people are when they start to get older? But I think he's a championship-caliber contributor and an above-average shortstop, and that's more than enough. We have other guys on offense that are charged with leading the way. Derek has always been a table setter, but Derek's offense isn't gonna make or break us. That's gonna come from other guys in the lineup that are expected to do more."

Jeter, who is batting .276 with two homers and nine RBIs, will put a six-game hitting streak on the line Tuesday night, when the Yankees open up a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium.

"D.J. has been [turning it around offensively] from this roadtrip, and obviously ended with a big explosion on Sunday," Cashman said. "Unfortunately, the ebb and flow of this sport is when you get one guy on track, one hole plugged in the dam, another hole opens up somewhere else. So hopefully we got a couple guys on track. But offense won't be the problem with this team, it'll be the pitching."

Cashman said that Jeter's struggles in April were magnified because of the three-year, $51 million contract he signed in the offseason with a player option for a fourth.

"Derek Jeter has been a big talk all of April because of the money," Cashman said. "Other guys are making less money that are struggling in April, but Derek has gotten all the headlines. He makes more money. His name is bigger because [of] the success he's had."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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